Projections - Movie Reviews

8 Women

8 Women

French auteur Francois Ozon seemed to bring out one of the strongest performances of Charlotte Rampling's career in last year's introspective drama, Under the Sand.  Now, in 8 Femes/8 Women, he's having fun with many ladies, young and old, in a lathering whodunit that recalls Agatha Christie and the technicolor pictures from the 50's.  8 Women is an amusing, somewhat bawdy diversion that has much to do with murder, music and sex.

The stellar cast includes the lovely Catherine Deneuve as Gaby who introduces the viewer to her French country mansion where she will be isolated with the other seven femmes in a snowstorm.

Set presumably in the late 50's, 8 Women draws one quickly into Gaby's unhappy existence with family and staff members as her estranged husband Marcel lies in bed with a knife stuck in his back.

Fashion, erotic tension and cat fights are brewing as each woman, sometimes more than one, lightens up the kinkiness with the bantering.  The musical interludes may seem out of place at first, but the actresses reveal more of their character in each of them.

Gaby may be considered the prime suspect as older daughter, Suzon (Virginie Ledoyen), Gaby's mother, Mamy (Danielle Darrieux) who isn't wheel-chair bound for long, Gaby's neurotic, spinster sister Augustine (Isabelle Huppert), and Marcel's posh sister Pierette (Fanny Ardant).  The later and Baby are intertwined in more ways than one, with importance placed on how much they get in Marcel's will.

Also with motives are the friendly, black maid in Madame Chanel (Firmine Richard) and the vamping blond chambermaid who found Marcel in his lifeless, prone position and Louise, acted with tart subservience by Emmanuelle Beart of Mission: Impossible.

The songs may not always charm this mystery, but it's clear the actresses are having a ball, and Ardant simmers with Ava Gardner looks in her performance, while Huppert settles down with sensuality as she takes off her glasses and puts on a precocious daughters and the repressed, but tormented Gaby.

The ending doesn't startle as much as come of the revelations concerning Marcel's relationships which led to many nocturnal encounters.  But 8 Women focuses well on the sadness that comes as young Sagnier puts an Altman touch and produces a kind of collective comeuppance.

8 Women

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